- Human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
In all areas of the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, the human rightsrecord remained poor, and numerous serious abuses were committed. Unlawful killings, disappearances, torture, rape, and arbitrary arrest and detention by security forces increased during the year, and the transitional government took few actions to punish violators. Harsh and life-threatening conditions in prison and detention facilities; prolonged pretrial detention; lack of an independent and effective judiciary; and arbitrary interference with privacy, family, and home also remained serious problems. Security forces continued to recruit and retain child soldiers and to compel forced labor by adults and children. They also continued to abuse freedom of the press, particularly during the election campaign. Also during the campaign, broadcast stations owned by Vice President Jean-Pierre Bembapromoted ethnic hatred. The transitional government continued to restrict freedoms of assembly and movement; government corruption remained pervasive; and security forces restricted Non-governmental organizations(NGOs). In addition, societal discrimination against women and ethnic minorities, trafficking in persons, child labor, and lack of protection for workers' rights continued to be pervasive throughout the country. [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78728.htm Report on Human Rights Practices 2006: Democratic Republic of the Congo] . United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor(March 6, 2007). "This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain."]
Armed groups continued to commit numerous, serious abuses--some of which may constitute war crimes—including unlawful killings, disappearances, and torture. They also recruited and retained child soldiers, compelled forced labor, and committed serious sexual abuses and other possible war crimes.
There was major improvement in one area: the country held its first democratic national elections in more than 40 years. More than 70 percent of registered voters participated in the first round of elections, and more than 65 percent participated in the second round. A freely elected
National Assemblytook office September 24. In addition, during the year the transitional government supported prosecution of serious human rights abuses. It transferred a former militia leader to the International Criminal Court(ICC) to face charges of recruitment of child soldiers, and a military court sentenced seven soldiers to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity.
Respect for the Integrity of the Person
Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
Transitional government security forces committed numerous unlawful killings with impunity. According to
MONUC, the FARDCand the national police (PNC) committed two-thirds of all unlawful killings in the country. During the first six months of the year, members of the FARDC allegedly killed more than 50 civilians, and PNC officers allegedly killed at least 10.
Transitional government security forces arbitrarily and summarily executed civilians, often for failing to surrender their possessions or to submit to rape.
On January 22, in
Kagaba, IturiDistrict, FARDC soldiers of the Fourth and Sixth Integrated Brigades allegedly shot several civilians, killing thirteen, including four women and two children, and wounding two others as they attended Sunday mass. No action was taken against the soldiers.
On June 26, a FARDC commandant in
Kongolo, KatangaProvince, allegedly killed a member of the Federation of Congolese Enterprises after the victim refused to pay money demanded by the commandant to buy a motorbike.
Butembo, North KivuProvince, on July 18, FARDC soldiers of the Second Integrated Brigade allegedly killed a civilian who attempted, with others, to stop soldiers from extorting money from them.
Fataki, IturiDistrict, a drunken FARDC soldier shot and killed two election workers during vote counting on October 30. The families of the victims destroyed part of nine polling centers in retribution. A military court sentenced the soldier to death.
Transitional government security forces killed suspects during apprehension or while holding them in custody.
For example, a FARDC commander in the Ituri District town of Dii arrested 19 suspects in a murder case and detained them at a military camp on January 22. One detainee allegedly died of severe mistreatment while in detention.
An elderly man in the North Kivu Province town of
Kilinderadied in custody on March 22, one day after military prosecutors arrested him in an attempt to force him to pay a fine. The soldiers in charge of the jail allegedly kicked him, beat him with truncheons and ropes, and forced him to march 32 miles until he died.
On September 26, guards at Kinshasa's main prison allegedly opened fire on prisoners while attempting to force them to return to their cells, killing five and wounding several others. The prisoners had rioted in reaction to a prohibition on visits by family members. There were no reports of authorities taking action against the guards involved.
Transitional government security forces killed demonstrators while attempting to disperse them (see section 2.b.).
Transitional government security forces committed other killings, including some involving beatings and excessive force, killings during election-related clashes, and accidental killings.
For example, in the
South KivuProvince town of Panzi, three FARDC soldiers allegedly attempting to intimidate a civilian by firing into the air accidentally shot him in the chest, killing him on June 8.
EquateurProvince town of Bumba, a mob burned 32 polling stations on October 29 after bullets fired by security forces attempting to restore order accidentally killed a 15-year-old boy and wounded another person. The incident occurred after security forces responded to a crowd beating the president of a voting center, who they believed had stuffed ballot boxes. There were no reports of authorities taking action against the security personnel involved.
From August 19-22, fighting in Kinshasa between guard forces loyal to Vice President Bemba and security forces loyal to President [Laurent Kabila] resulted in the deaths of 23 people, including several civilians. Renewed clashes on November 11 resulted in the deaths of four people, including three civilians.
Fighting in the east between armed groups and the army displaced thousands of civilians, limited humanitarian access to vulnerable populations, and resulted in or contributed to hundreds of civilian deaths, many from illness and starvation (see section 1.g.).
Simba Hussein, who was sentenced to death for killing a civilian who refused to change the colonel's tire in July 2005, was transferred to a prison in another province, from which he was paroled during the year. There were unconfirmed reports that he had returned to active service by year's end.
Unidentified armed men killed a journalist and may have been politically motivated (see section 2.a).
Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that unidentified armed men in uniform forcibly entered personal residences in
Kinshasaat night to harass civilians, loot personal belongings, or kill persons involved in personal feuds.
Armed groups operating outside government control committed killings of civilians, and
summary executions (see section 1.g.).
During the year mob violence resulted in deaths; crowds that gathered in public places killed civilians and soldiers.
For example, on July 27, participants in a Kinshasa campaign rally for Vice President and
Movement for the Liberation of Congo(MLC) presidential candidate Bemba killed a civilian, two soldiers, and three police officers, including one by burning him alive. The mob injured 20 other police officers, looted the offices of the High Authority for Media(HAM) and the National Observatory for Human Rights(ONDH), gang raped at least one woman, and destroyed two churches and several houses. Subsequent investigation by the ONDH assigned full blame to the MLC for the incident. An MLC spokesman alleged the police victims had died in a car accident.
Civilians killed members of the security forces for allegedly committing serious crimes during the year. A mob in
Mbuji Mayi, in Eastern KasaiProvince, burned a policeman to death on March 21 for allegedly shooting and stabbing a civilian while attempting to rob the civilian as part of an armed gang.
On August 2, a mob of 2,000 persons in the North Kivu Province town of
Katwiguruburned alive a police officer who allegedly killed a civilian while attempting to extort money from him.
During the year parents and relatives, as well as other adults, killed children accused of sorcery.
A father in the
Equateur Provincetown of Zongothrew his five-month-old baby into a river in September for alleged sorcery. Days earlier adults in the provincial capital of Mbandakathrew a 15-year-old boy in the river for sorcery. Police made arrests in both cases.
By year's end no prosecutions had taken place against individuals who burned to death children accused of sorcery in
Mbuji Mayi, Eastern Kasai Province in 2005.
There were no confirmed reports of politically motivated disappearances by government forces; however, security forces allegedly abducted civilians during the year. For example, according to MONUC, FARDC soldiers abducted four civilians from
Kagaba, Ituri District in early March and later killed them. The soldiers also raped several women and dragged a 74-year-old woman more than 100 yards along the ground. There were no reports of authorities taking action against the soldiers involved.
Armed groups operating outside government control kidnapped numerous persons, often for forced labor, military service, or sexual services. Many of the victims disappeared (see section 1.g.).
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
On June 12, the transitional government promulgated a new law criminalizing torture; however, during the year security services continued to torture civilians, particularly detainees and prisoners. There were unconfirmed reports that members of the security services tortured or abused civilians to settle personal disputes. Authorities had taken no known action against the soldiers who committed the abuses described below by year's end.
FARDC soldiers allegedly tortured a diamond digger in
Mbuji Mayi, Eastern KasaiProvince on March 13. Three soldiers took the digger to a cell, suspended him upside down from an electrified post, and beat him for two hours to extract the names of ex-military groups illegally working in the concession of the Mine of Bakwanga (MIBA) diamond parastatal.
Republican Guard (GR) troops arbitrarily arrested and tortured 84 fishermen in Equateur Province on August 24. The soldiers allegedly stripped, trampled, and beat the men before locking them in an underground cell in inhuman conditions for three days. They also confiscated the fishermen's voting cards.
Kahorohoro, South Kivu Province, FARDC soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Mutupeke allegedly arrested, beat, whipped 60 times, and tortured an eighteen-year-old male on September 1 to extract confession of a crime.
Security services employed cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment.
On March 28, GR Lieutenant Mukalayi accused a man in Kinshasa of denouncing the head of state and demanded $50 (26,500 Congolese francs) as a "fine." When the man failed to pay, soldiers took him to a military camp, demanded to know if he supported opposition groups, and reportedly struck him fifty times until he began to hemorrhage internally.
On May 21, a police officer in Kindu, Maniema Province arbitrarily arrested a civilian working on the political campaign of the minister of the interior. They allegedly beat the civilian seriously on his face and genitals. The officer worked for the governor, a political opponent of the minister. No known action had been taken against the soldiers by year's end.
In June GR soldiers reportedly arrested and beat a journalist in Kinshasa (see section 2.a.)
During the year security forces killed some demonstrators and injured others while attempting to disperse them (see section 2.b.).
Human rights organizations reported that police and soldiers commonly abused homeless children, stole their possessions, and paid for sex or raped them. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), police extorted bribes from gangs of street youths to prevent harassment and colluded with them in crime and prostitution. Political groups encouraged and paid homeless children and youth gangs to disrupt public order.
At year's end there were no reports of any action taken against a FARDC officer responsible for the November 2005 arrest, whipping, and beating of a woman in Kambabma-Kaboneke.
Members of transitional government security forces raped civilians with impunity.
Members of the naval and police forces committed mass rape in the
Equateurprovince towns of Ganda, Likako, and Likundjuon March 18. They allegedly raped 34 women and three girls, attempted to rape nine others, tortured 50 civilians, and looted 120 houses.
PNC agents in the Equateur Province town of Bolongo committed mass rape during the night of August 5-6 allegedly in retaliation for opposition by the town's residents to enforcement of an arrest warrant. The agents raped 60 women, including two girls, and looted houses and buildings.
Members of transitional government security forces and of armed groups operating outside government control committed torture, rape, and otherwise physically abused numerous persons as a consequence of conflict during the year (see section 1.g.).
Prisons and Detention Center Conditions
Conditions in most large prisons were harsh and life threatening. During the year an unknown number of persons died in prisons due to neglect; MONUC reports indicated that at least one person died each month in prisons in the country. The penal system continued to suffer from severe shortages of funds, and most prisons were severely overcrowded, in poor a state of repair, lacked sanitation facilities, or were not designed to be used as detention facilities. Health care and medical attention remained inadequate and infectious diseases were rampant. In rare cases, prison doctors provided care; however, they often lacked medicines and supplies.
In several prisons, the government has not provided food for many years. Many prisoners starved to death; food remained inadequate and malnutrition widespread. In general, prisoners' families and friends were the only source of food and other necessities. Prisoners with no one to provide food were particularly at risk. Local NGOs reported that authorities sometimes moved prisoners without telling families, making the provision of food difficult or impossible. Prison staff often forced family members to pay bribes to bring food to prisoners.
According to MONUC, two civilian detainees charged with armed robbery died in April from infected foot wounds caused by leg irons in Kongolo prison, Katanga Province.
Larger prisons sometimes had separate facilities for women and juveniles, but others generally did not. Male prisoners raped other prisoners, including men, women, and children, according to numerous credible reports. Prison officials held pretrial detainees together with convicted prisoners and treated both groups the same. They generally held individuals detained on state security grounds in special sections. Government security services often clandestinely transferred such prisoners to secret prisons. Civilian and military prisons and detention facilities held soldiers and civilians alike.
Harsher conditions existed in small detention facilities. These facilities were overcrowded and generally intended for short-term pretrial detention; in practice they were often used for lengthy stays. Detention center authorities often arbitrarily beat or tortured detainees. These facilities usually had no toilets, mattresses, or medical care, and detainees often received insufficient amounts of light, air, and water. The centers generally operated without dedicated funding and with minimal regulation or oversight. Detention center authorities or influential individuals frequently barred visitors or severely mistreated detainees. Guards frequently extorted bribes from family members and NGOs to visit detainees or provide food and other necessities.
The security services, particularly the intelligence services and the GR, continued to operate numerous illegal detention facilities characterized by extremely harsh and life-threatening conditions. Members of government security services regularly abused, beat, and tortured detainees incarcerated there, sometimes fatally (see sections 1.a and 1.g). Authorities routinely denied access to family members, friends, and lawyers.
According to MONUC, military jails had makeshift cells, including some that were located underground, that held military and sometimes civilian detainees. MONUC confirmed multiple cases of torture in detention centers run by security services. These facilities lacked adequate food and water, toilets, mattresses, and medical care, and authorities routinely denied prisoners access to their families, friends, and lawyers.
According to a March 16 MONUC report on arrests and detentions in prisons, government security forces and prison officials routinely violated prisoners' and detainees' rights. Security forces lacking legal detention authority often arrested and detained individuals. Despite a presidential decision to close illegal jails operated by the military or other security forces, none were closed during the year. The report found that 70 to 80 percent of detained persons did not see a judge for months or years, if ever.
According to the law, minors should be detained only as a last resort; however, in part due to the absence of juvenile justice or education centers, detention of minors was common. Many children endured pretrial detention as delinquents without seeing a judge, lawyer, or social worker; for orphaned children, pretrial detention often continued for months or years.
Amnesty International(AI) visited the Provincial Inspectorship of Kinshasa, one of the main police detention centers in the city. Out of 100 prisoners visited by AI, more than 20 showed signs of ill-treatment, including open—and sometimes fresh—wounds on legs, arms, and heads; cigarette burns; and friction burns on wrists. These prisoners had received no medical care. They allegedly were daily tied to pillars, beaten with sticks and bricks, and kicked. Those inflicting the abuse regularly demanded money. Prison officials refused AI access to the room where the abuses allegedly occurred. The deputy commander of the prison claimed no knowledge of the abuse.
Armed groups sometimes detained civilians, often for ransom (see section 1.d.), but little information was available concerning the conditions of detention.
In general, the government allowed the
International Committee of the Red Cross(ICRC), MONUC, and some NGOs access to all official detention facilities; however, it did not allow these organizations access to illegal detention facilities.
Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, government security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained persons, including journalists.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
The security forces consist of the PNC, including the Rapid Intervention Police unit and the Integrated Police Unit, which has primary responsibility for law enforcement and maintaining public order and is part of the Ministry of Interior; the immigration service, also in the Ministry of the Interior; the National Intelligence Agency (ANR), which is overseen by the president's national security advisor and is responsible for internal and external security; the military intelligence service of the Ministry of Defense; the director general of migrations, responsible for border control; the GR, which reports directly to the presidency; and the FARDC, which is part of the Ministry of Defense and is generally responsible for external security, but also has limited internal security responsibilities.
The overall level of police
professionalismincreased noticeably during the year; for example, recently trained police showed considerable restraint during the July 27 violence in Kinshasa that resulted in the death of several members of the security forces (see section 1.a). However, military forces generally remained ineffective, lacked training, received little pay, and were vulnerable to corruption.
During the year members of the police, military, and other security forces attacked, detained, robbed, and extorted money from civilians. According to HRW, some police officers colluded with petty criminals and prostitutes for a share of their earnings. The transitional government prosecuted and disciplined some violators; however, the vast majority acted with impunity. Although mechanisms existed to investigate violations by police, the police used them only sporadically.
There continued to be instances where police failed to prevent or respond to societal violence (see section 1.a.); however, during the year the transitional government continued to cooperate with MONUC and members of the international community on
Arrest and Detention
Under the law, certain police officers and senior security officers are authorized to order arrests. Offenses punishable by more than six months'
imprisonmentrequire warrants. Detainees must appear before a magistrate within 48 hours. Those arrested must be informed of their rights, must be told why they were arrested, and must not be arrested in place of a family member. They may not be arrested for nonpenal offenses, such as debt and civil offenses. Arrested individuals must also be allowed to contact their families and consult with attorneys. In practice, security officials routinely violated all of these requirements.
Police often arbitrarily arrested and detained persons without filing charges, often to extort money from family members. Authorities rarely pressed charges in a timely manner and often created contrived or overly vague charges. No functioning bail system existed, and detainees had little access to legal counsel if unable to pay. Incommunicado detention was common; security forces regularly held suspects before acknowledging their detention or allowing them contact with family or counsel.
Police arrested persons during the year for criticizing the government.
Government security forces used the pretext of state security to arbitrarily arrest individuals. They arrested and detained individuals in the name of state security and frequently held them without charge, presentation of evidence, access to a lawyer, or due process.
A March 16 MONUC report found widespread illegal arrest and detention of minors, particularly street children and children associated with armed groups. Although the recruitment or retention of child soldiers is illegal, military authorities sometimes arrested demobilized child soldiers on charges of desertion and tried them in military courts. Civilian courts on occasion tried child soldiers for possessing illegal arms, even though they had been illegally recruited as combatants.
In June security forces in
Mbuji Mayi, Eastern Kasai Province arrested for arms possession and arbitrarily detained 12 supporters of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) political party (see section 3).
PNC agents in Equateur Province allegedly arrested, beat, and wounded a civilian found with ripped up posters of the president on July 15.
GR soldiers arrested two aides to presidential candidate
Mbuyi Kalala Alfueleon July 30. The soldiers allegedly blindfolded, handcuffed, and detained the aides at an unknown location until releasing them without charge the following day.
On September 20, police apprehended 600 adults whom they accused of participating in politically inspired gang violence in Kinshasa. They also detained 180 minors, including 20 younger than five years old apprehended with their mothers. According to MONUC, the police held them without adequate shelter, food, or water. Human rights organizations arranged for children under 15 to be released to their parents. At least 130 people, including women and children, remained in custody for more than a month without charge. Authorities released all the remaining detainees by year's end on the order of a Kinshasa judge.
On November 12, police in Kinshasa detained without charge 250 homeless adults and 87 minors, all alleged street gang members, following a gun battle between security forces and Vice President Bemba's troops the day before. The adults were transported to rural areas for forced agricultural work under a national service program; the children were released to local NGOs.
Security forces arbitrarily arrested union leaders (see section 6.a.).
Many individuals arrested experienced prolonged pretrial detention, often ranging from months to years. MONUC reported that 70 to 80 percent of detainees nationwide were in pretrial detention. Prison officials often held individuals long after their sentences had expired due to disorganization, judicial inefficiency, or corruption. In several instances when NGOs or MONUC brought cases to the attention of the government, prison officials released them. Armed groups operating outside government control in parts of the east sometimes detained civilians, often for ransom.
In November 2005 the National Assembly passed a law granting amnesty to individuals accused of war crimes and political offenses committed between August 1996 and June 2003. A December 2005 Supreme Court ruling excluded amnesty for individuals allegedly involved in the assassination of then president
Laurent Kabila, which the ruling identified as a criminal, rather than political, act. Annie Kalumbu, jailed since 2001 for allegedly plotting against Laurent Kabila, left prison under amnesty February 15. According to African Association for the Defense of Human Rights(ASADHO), she began receiving death threats February 22 and went into hiding. Her whereabouts were unknown. MONUC and the local NGO VSV alleged that at least one other individual accused of plotting against Laurent Kabila long before his assassination continued in detention.
Denial of Fair Public Trial
The law provides for an independent judiciary; however, in practice the judiciary remained poorly paid, ineffective, subject to influence by government officials, and corrupt.
judicial system, including lower courts, appellate courts, the Supreme Court, and the Court of State Security, continued to be largely dysfunctional. Corruption remained pervasive, particularly among magistrates, who were paid poorly and intermittently.
Military courts, which had broad discretion in sentencing and no appeal process, tried military as well as civilian defendants during the year. Although the government permitted, and in some cases provided, legal counsel, lawyers often did not have free access to defendants. The public could attend trials only at the discretion of the presiding judge.
Civil and criminal legal codes, based on Belgian and customary law, provide for the right to a speedy public trial, the presumption of innocence, and legal counsel. However, these rights were not respected in practice. While some judges allowed public access to trials, other judges, notably those presiding in rape trials, did not. There are no juries. Defendants have the right to appeal most cases except those involving national security, armed robbery, and smuggling, which the Court of State Security generally adjudicates. In some instances special military tribunals, whose jurisdiction is ill defined, adjudicate national security cases. The law provides for court-appointed counsel at state expense in certain cases, but the government often did not provide such counsel.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were reports of political prisoners and detainees but no reliable estimates of the number. The government sometimes permitted access to political prisoners by international groups.
According to AI, on June 16, a military tribunal sentenced
Fernando Kutinoand two colleagues to 20 years following a brief trial. Kutino was originally charged with incitement to hatred after a May speech critical of the president; following the speech, broadcast by a radio station owned by Kutino's church, armed assailants in civilian clothes destroyed and looted the station's equipment on May 22, forcing it off the air. Press freedom NGO Committee to Protect Journalists(CPJ) alleged that the assailants were police officers. The court changed the charge to illegal possession of firearms, criminal conspiracy, and attempted murder (although the alleged victim refused to implicate Kutino). AI claimed that the court used evidence extracted from Kutino's codefendants under torture, and defense lawyers walked out nine days before the guilty verdict to protest the conduct of the trial. Kutino remained incarcerated at the end of the year.
On February 1, the Court of State Security sentenced
Jeannete Abidjeto 12 months in prison for offenses against the head of state. She claimed the president fathered her five-year-old daughter by raping her during his time as a soldier. Abidje remained in prison at year's end.
Civil Judicial Procedures
Civil courts exist for lawsuits and other disputes, but the public widely viewed them as corrupt. Magistrates were poorly paid, and the party willing to pay them the most money was generally believed to receive decisions in its favor. Most individuals could not afford the often prohibitive fees associated with filing a civil case. No civil court exists to address human rights violations. Military courts had effective jurisdiction over most human rights violations, since government security forces were the primary violators.
Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence; however, security forces routinely ignored these provisions. Soldiers, deserters, and police continued to harass and rob civilians. Security forces routinely ignored legal requirements for search warrants and entered and searched homes or vehicles at will. In general those responsible for such acts remained unidentified and unpunished. Police sometimes looted homes, businesses, and schools.
FARDC soldiers occupied a school in
Bulungera, North KivuProvince following a February campaign against the Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda. They remained at the school for three months before a visiting minister negotiated with the regional military commander to have them relocated to an integration center.
FARDC 891st Battalion soldiers who were allied with renegade General
Laurent Nkundaand not under central command authority occupied a primary school, which had served 1,388 pupils in the North Kivu Province town of Mbau, on March 30 and made it their military camp. They used doors and desks as firewood, converted classrooms to toilets, and looted the school's supplies. Military authorities did not investigate. A new regional military commander promised to remove the soldiers, but they remained in place at year's end.
Unlike in 2005, there were no reports that ANR security agents monitored mail passing through private express delivery companies and the state mail service. The government was widely believed to monitor some telephone communications.
Throughout the country authorities sometimes arrested or beat a relative or associate of a person they were seeking to arrest.
For example, on April 1, in the
South KivuProvince town of Uvira, PNC officers searching unsuccessfully for a man apprehended his wife and their infant child instead. The woman claimed the officers beat her with a club. No known action was taken against the officers.
On August 12, ANR agents in
Lubumbashi, KatangaProvince arrested two civilians in place of their employer who was accused of theft. The agents allegedly tied up and beat one of them before a senior officer intervened.
The officer who ordered the 2005 beating by Lubumbashi police of Mimi Mbayo in place of her husband remained unpunished.
Armed groups operating outside government control in the east routinely subjected civilians to arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, and correspondence (see section 1.g.).
Use of Excessive Force and Other Abuses in Internal Conflicts
Internal conflict continued in rural and mineral-rich parts of the east, particularly in
IturiDistrict, northern Katangaprovince, and the provinces of North Kivuand South Kivu. Unlike in the previous year, there was no confirmation of reports of Rwanda or Uganda providing material support to armed groups that operated and committed human rights abuses in the country, or of the presence of Rwandan soldiers in the country.
Security forces and numerous armed groups continued to kill abduct, torture, and rape civilians, and burn and destroy villages. The security forces and armed groups continued to use mass rape and sexual violence with impunity as weapons of war and to humiliate and punish victims, families, and communities. There were also sporadic reports of death or injury from landmines laid during the 1998-2003 war.
Fighting between the FARDC and armed groups continued to cause population displacements and limited access to conflict areas by humanitarian groups. According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), fighting between armed groups and the FARDC displaced more than 100,000 civilians in Katanga Province and at least 37,000 civilians in North Kivu Province during the year.
Security forces and armed groups continued to recruit and maintain child soldiers in their ranks. A June 13 report of the UN secretary general on children and armed conflict in the country, which covered the period July 2005 to May, found continued recruitment and use of children in security forces and armed groups. Perpetrators included transitional government security forces, FARDC forces allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority, Mai Mai militia, and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
At year's end more than 20,000 children, including nearly 3,000 girls, had been demobilized from government security services and armed groups. NGOs estimated that as many as 30,000 children were once associated with armed groups. Although there were no reliable statistics, most credible sources, including the UN Children's Fund (
UNICEF), estimated that at least 3,000 children had yet to be demobilized and remained in the ranks of or held by armed groups. According to an October AI report, girls accounted for 15 to 40 percent of the child soldiers, but in some areas they constituted less that 2 percent of child soldiers demobilized. AI attributed the discrepancy to a belief by NGOs working with child soldiers that girls among armed groups were either dependents or "wives" of adult fighters.
Recruitment of children began as young as age six, according to AI. Some children were forcibly recruited, while others enrolled for food, protection, or to escape poverty. Child soldiers faced violence from older soldiers and armed conflict. They were also exploited as porters or sex slaves.
At times, verification of reported abuses in the east was difficult due to geographical remoteness and hazardous security conditions; however, MONUC's presence allowed observers to gather more information than would have otherwise been possible, and according to local NGOs, helped decrease human rights violations by armed groups during the year.
Abuses by Transitional Government Security Forces
Government forces arbitrarily arrested, raped, tortured, and summarily executed or otherwise killed civilians and looted villages during military actions against armed groups during the year. During the year the government conducted some trials for abuses committed in the context of internal conflicts in the east. In general, the trials were flawed, and sentences were not always enforced.
Clashes between FARDC troops and the FDLR in Nyamilima, North Kivu Province in June resulted in the deaths of eight civilians. FARDC soldiers allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority allegedly shot and killed three children at close range.
On November 4, a military court sentenced a FARDC army captain to 20 years in prison for ordering the killing of five children in Ituri District in 2005. According to MONUC he and his officers had ordered the children to carry goods looted from their village after the FARDC conducted an operation against Ituri militia. The captain then claimed the children were militiamen and ordered his men to kill them.
Rape by security forces remained a serious problem. Civilian officials prosecuted rape more frequently than military justice courts; military perpetrators enjoyed almost total impunity. Police, army and navy personnel, and ex-soldiers allegedly raped 32 women and two girls and systematically looted 120 homesteads in Waka, Equateur Province on March 19. Three suspects were arrested in June; the rest remained at large.
During the year MONUC reported increased sexual violence by FARDC soldiers near Uvira, South Kivu Province against girls as young as 10 years old. The commanding officer of the battalion refused to hand over accused soldiers, although judicial authorities had issued warrants for their arrest.
On April 12 a military court in
Songo Mboyo, Equateur Province sentenced seven former MLC militia members to life in prison for crimes against humanity, including the December 2003 mass rape of more than 119 women. This ruling was the first judicial action against military personnel accused of crimes against humanity. The judge also found the transitional government responsible for the acts of the MLC soldiers. He ordered it to pay $10,000 (5.3 million Congolese francs) to the family of each woman who died as a result of the sexual assaults, $5,000 (2.65 million Congolese francs) to each survivor of sexual assault, and $3,000 (1.59 million Congolese francs) to each business owner whose shop was looted. On October 21, five of the former militia members escaped from Mbandaka military prison and had not been found by year's end.
On June 20, a military court in Mbandaka, Equateur Province convicted 42 FARDC soldiers for murders and rapes committed in 2005, which it considered crimes against humanity.
Security forces recruited children and used them as soldiers during the year although the exact number was not known. In March MONUC identified 22 children among soldiers of the Fifth Integrated FARDC Brigade in Katanga Province. It found that FARDC Captain Mulenga in South Kivu Province had eight children in his ranks. He and his troops had also allegedly abducted five girls that month. Authorities later replaced the brigade's commanding officer.
Unlike in 2005, there were no reports that local authorities attempted to recruit child soldiers for armed groups.
Security forces arbitrarily arrested former (demobilized) child soldiers (see section 1.d.).
Abuses by FARDC Forces allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority
Renegade General Nkunda, a former officer of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) rebel group and later of the FARDC, remained subject to a September 2005 international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since 2002. Based in a location in North Kivu Province well known to and monitored by the transitional government security forces and MONUC, General Nkunda continued to control an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 FARDC soldiers who operated outside the transitional government's central command authority, although the government continued to pay their salaries, at least periodically.
FARDC elements allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority killed civilians during the year. Three soldiers of the FARDC 811th Battalion, under the command of Major Claude in
Kauma, North Kivu Province, attacked and looted a farm and forced the residents to transport the looted possessions. The soldiers summarily executed a civilian who refused to comply.
FARDC elements allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority killed demobilized soldiers during the year. Soldiers of the 83rd Brigade beat a demobilized soldier to death on January 25 and then crucified him on a tree, allegedly for deserting the army and leaving the RCD political party.
In Bwiza, North Kivu Province, 20 demobilized soldiers died in an underground holding cell in April and May after allegedly suffering cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by soldiers of the 83rd Brigade allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority.
FARDC elements allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority raped civilians during the year. Soldiers of the Nkunda-allied FARDC 83rd Brigade raped up to 90 women during a conflict in
Kibirizi, North Kivu Province in January. MONUC interviewed victims who claimed to have been raped by three or four soldiers, often in front of family members, including children.
FARDC elements allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority recruited children into the military.
FARDC brigades not under central command authority recruited children for General Nkunda in North Kivu Province during the year. Soldiers ordered new child recruits to recruit other children, sometimes at gunpoint. At least 70 children were recruited in this way. MONUC reported an additional 170 children present in the 84th Brigade under Colonel Akilimali and the 85th Brigade under Colonel Samy.
FARDC elements allied with renegade General Nkunda and not under central command authority also re-recruited children. For example, according to MONUC, soldiers of the 835th Battalion abducted 13 demobilized children near
Kitchangein Masisi(North Kivu Province) on June 22. On July 30, these soldiers traced two ex-child soldiers to their homes and tried to persuade them to return. Child protection NGOs stopped reunifying children with families in Masisi due to the risk of re-recruitment.
Abuses by Armed Groups outside Government Control
Armed groups outside government control committed numerous serious abuses, especially in rural areas of North and South Kivu provinces, northern Katanga Province, and Ituri District.
During the year armed groups raped, tortured, and killed civilians often as retribution for alleged collaboration with government forces. They sometimes threatened and harassed humanitarian workers. Armed groups killed nine UN peacekeepers during the year. Unlike in 2005, there were no reports of armed groups imposing travel restrictions on humanitarian aid organizations, human rights NGOs, or journalists. Unlike in 2005, there were no reports of armed groups killing or kidnapping humanitarian workers.
Armed groups continued to use mass rape and sexual violence as weapons of war. Gang rapes were common and were often committed in front of victims' families. Rapes were often extremely violent and were generally accompanied by threats and beatings. These rapes sometimes resulted in vaginal fistula, a rupture of vaginal tissue that left women unable to control bodily functions and vulnerable to ostracism.
In some cases sexual abuses committed by various armed groups in the east were limited in time or perpetrated sporadically, by multiple individuals. Other girls and women were subjected to repeated rape over longer periods by a single perpetrator; some were forcibly abducted. These girls and women were commonly referred to as war wives, who often served both as fighters and sex slaves for their commanders.
Armed groups, including
Mai Mai, continued to abduct and forcibly recruit children to serve as forced laborers, porters, combatants, war wives, and sex slaves. Credible estimates of the total number of children associated with armed groups, many of whom were between the ages of 14 and 16, varied widely from 15,000 to 30,000 in 2005. Credible sources estimated that at least 3,000 child soldiers had not yet been demobilized countrywide by year's end.